When we ask Lawrence Ssemakula how we can best assist St. John’s Primary, we are well equipped with ideas on what we could offer: curriculum development, teacher training, classroom development, and more. But his response always humbles us as he shares the most pressing need: food. “During the lunch hour,” he says, “you can just see all of our students laying across the field--hungry for lunch that they don’t have, without the energy even to play.”
How do you even respond, except to cry?
Though we have been aware of this need, we are also aware that it would cost approximately 200USD a day to feed the student body at St. John’s (which is only growing in numbers because of the work we have done there). At this point, we can’t offer that kind of support. We’ve been in search of a sustainable solution that can help the students in the extremely impoverished area to meet this basic need.
Recently, we were able to share with the school leadership there the gardening practices we’ve developed in Tennessee. Showing them pictures of the success left a smile on their faces, and a yearning in their hearts. “This is possible here?” they asked. “Yes, it definitely is,” we responded.
Thankfully, we were given one and a half acres across from the school so that we can now officially launch our school garden. Though it has been in our hearts for some time, the logistics of the project have finally played out. This was largely dependent upon the leadership of Reuben Ndwiga, our EA Director of Agriculture, who just relocated from Kenya to Uganda. Now, we are happy to begin planting! We are also blessed to have a number of our East Africa Institute students working as St. John’s teachers. Their understanding of the bible, community development and food production is enhancing the way they educate children, and will assist them in implementing this program.
Our goal in this school garden is threefold. One, to introduce the children at St. John’s to an education that benefits them in their context, training them to meet their needs. Second, to provide fresh produce for a lunch program at the school. Third, to instill in the children a love for food production and an awareness of methods that can be passed on to their families. This is something we have already accomplished at our headquarters in Tennessee, where all Academy students engage in growing and planting classes. The food that is grown is utilized in our fresh lunch program, and children are participating in growing vegetables with their parents in gardens at home.
On the donated land, we will begin with corn, beans and squash through a method of companion planting that does not require double-digging, saving us time and energy, and allowing a fairly quick turnaround of food production. This will take place on 60% of the plot. The remaining 40% will be used to teach double digging and other bio-intensive concepts as well as introduce a variety of vegetables to the students. As Cameron Kagay, Director of G.O.D. East Africa says, “We need a win. These kids need food right away. This can’t fail. Education and Food have to go together. We cannot help the kids learn at St. Johns without helping them get the food they need to even stay awake during a class.”
Please pray for this project as it begins. We have faith in the Lord, and the confidence of having done it already in Tennessee. But we still need the Lord to bless our efforts--to show the kids the benefits of working the soil in earnestness, to show the community the possibility that exists in a creative, sustainable solution instead of more dependence on Westerners. These kids don’t need slop in a cup. They deserve real, nutritious, healthy food to aid their growing bodies and hungry minds. We are going to try our best to give it to them.
Forgive us Lord, that they are still hungry.
Be near and help us Lord, as we try to make a change from the ground up.